dei in design | Apr 2, 2024 |
High Point Market Authority announces diversity advocacy awards

High Point Market Authority announced a trio of inaugural diversity advocacy awards, an effort to spotlight both individuals and brands from across the design industry that have demonstrated a commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. The awards will be presented by the HPMA’s Diversity Advocacy Alliance, a committee that aims to cultivate a welcoming environment and expand the representation of the BIPOC community within the home furnishings industry and its leadership.

“We wanted to ensure that the people and companies who are doing good work in this area are being highlighted,” says Tammy Nagem, the president and CEO of High Point Market Authority. To Nagem’s point, candidates for the awards can be a market exhibitor, interior designer, retailer, member of the press, student or trend forecaster. “It’s a great way for folks to learn a little bit more about the Alliance, but also to be involved—we hear that every day from our exhibitors: ‘How can we be involved in what the DAA is doing?’ We have a limited number of spaces on the committee, but this really gives the Market and the industry as a whole a way to be [part of the effort].”

Each award focuses on a different aspect of DEI. The Open Arms Award recognizes an exhibitor or showroom that “sets the gold standard” for inclusivity and warm hospitality toward all visitors, irrespective of their race, gender or orientation. It’s an area that DAA member designer DuVäl Reynolds says was a unifying moment for the group in the early days of its founding in 2021.

“When we first started meeting, and we were trying to decide what this group would be and identify what issues specifically we wanted to resolve, every one of us had a story about a time when we didn’t feel welcome in a showroom,” says Reynolds. He’s often found that showroom representatives will approach one of his junior designers, a white woman, instead of talking to him. “She actually brought it up to me because she’d noticed it, and I said, ‘Yeah, that kind of thing happens to me all the time.’ With those shared experiences coming up so frequently, we wanted to promote the places where we do feel welcome.”

The second award, the Mentorship Award, will honor a recipient with a proven track record of providing guidance, support and mentorship to fellow designers and colleagues from underrepresented backgrounds. Fostering peer-to-peer connections has been another core tenet of the DAA, which has established programs where designers can sign up to tour showrooms with DAA members, in addition to a program supporting local high school students in exploring design industry career opportunities.

The final award, the Social Responsibility Award, recognizes individuals or companies who actively embrace and promote inclusion, empowering designers from all kinds of backgrounds and acknowledging the importance of diversity in driving innovation, creativity and unique perspectives. “In terms of DEI in this industry, you see a lot of people talking about it on panels, but there are a lot of people out there on the ground who are doing the work and making a difference for all of us,” says Reynolds. “There are individuals who are making change just through one-on-one interactions and, until now, they weren’t being rewarded or recognized.”

The DAA will accept nominations for the three awards through June 14 and plans to recognize the winners during Fall Market in October.

“We are trying to voice the idea that the work behind the scenes is equally if not more important than the work that’s on [display],” says Reynolds. “We wanted to let people know that the efforts are not in vain.”

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